Sunday, September 28, 2014

Robert Rauschenberg and his Louisiana Scions

Melic Meeting by Robert Rauschenberg (Detail)
Scraper by Keith Sonnier
He was always of the moment, anticipating every new trend while remaining much the same over the decades; Robert Rauschenberg was making pop art in the 1950s when Andy Warhol was a still a shoe illustrator. He was born in Port Arthur Texas, but in the 1940s his family moved to Lafayette, Louisiana, where he returned every year for family gatherings and his New Orleans-born mom's birthday. This show is a mini-reprise of Five From Louisiana, a 1977 New Orleans Museum of Art expo that also included work by Lynda Benglis, Tina Girouard, Richard Landry and Keith Sonnier--Louisiana natives prominent in New York's pivotal post-minimalist movement. Unlike minimalism's starkness, postminimal art was, like this state's primal baroque wildness, organic and curvaceous. These works complement NOMA's big, newly acquired Rauschenberg mixed media piece, Melic Meeting (pictured), while reminding us of the transformational role that Louisiana artists played in the evolution of American modernism.

Maiastra by Tony Campbell and Matt Vis
Fast forward to 21st century St. Claude Avenue, where we find a trove of Rauscheberg-inspired works by Generic Art Solutions (Tony Campbell and Mat Vis). Rauschenberg was an art world titan by the time he died in 2008, and his foundation maintains his 20 acre compound on Florida's Captiva Island where Campbell and Vis were recently honored with a one month residency. There they made art that embodies the inventiveness for which he, and they, are known, in works like Flight, where Campbell wearing Icarus wings is depicted in a literal leap of faith over the Gulf--an homage, perhaps. to Rauschenberg's famously inspired, if somewhat woozy, flights of fancy. The most substantial work on view is their Rauschenberg and Brancusi-based Maiastra, two bicycle frames precisely conjoined into a beautifully symmetrical "thought cycle"-- a vehicle they say "can only be ridden with ones’ imagination…unless you actually take a ride beyond the earth’s atmosphere into zero gravity." ~Bookhardt

Enjoy by Tony Campbell and Matt Vis
Robert Rauschenberg and Five from Louisiana, Through Oct. 5th, New Orleans Museum of Art, City Park, 658-4100;  In the Shadow of a Giant: Recent Works by Generic Art Solutions, Through Oct. 5th, Good Children Gallery, 4037 St. Claude Ave., 616-7427.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Erickson's Data Shadows at Tulane's Carroll Gallery

Hardware Mirror #10

Local Servers
One of the more prominent artworks at the old Saturn Bar back in the day was Mike Frolich's You Are Being Watched, a cosmic all-seeing eye luridly rendered in house paint. Frolich is no longer with us, but his visionary take on surveillance was decades ahead of its time, as Edward Snowden's exposure of the National Security Agency's massive data spying made clear. But the NSA is a piker compared to the vast private data spying perpetrated by Facebook and Google among other corporations collectively known as Big Data. And where early cave art reflected the unseen nature spirits that guided the fates of men and beasts, today's largely invisible data networks now mimic those  intangible forces to a spooky, near metaphysical extent. AnnieLaurie Erickson's Data Shadows expo explores the mostly hidden structures that facilitate Big Data's penetration into nearly every aspect of our lives.

Google Data Center, Mayse County Oklahoma
Within the dusky gallery, three mysteriously glowing vertical structures dominate the far wall. Titled Local Servers, they are photographic replicas of computer server circuits, but mounted on those eerily glowing structures they resonate an almost totemic presence. We almost never see them because most are hidden in sprawling data centers typically located in America's most remote regions. Armed security personnel sometimes allowed Erickson to photograph compounds like Google Data Center, Mayse County Oklahoma, above, from a distance. Their minimal forms suggest megalithic prisons or bunkers, yet her images of circuitry contained in those places --for instance, Hardware Mirror #10, top--recall tribal Mayan or Nepalese fabric patterns. A similar but glowing image initially looks blurred, but blacks out when you approach it except for a sharply focused circle. Move your gaze and the circle of focus moves with your eyes. Titled Data Shadows, it illustrates how digital data's "eye tracking" technology watches us even as we try to watch it. Like the nature spirits of ancient times, Big Data is the new unseen force that increasingly determines our destiny and, like those old gods of yore, it is unclear whether it serves us or we serve it.~Bookhardt
Data Shadows: Photographs and Mixed Media by AnnieLaurie Erickson, through Oct. 8, Carroll Gallery, Tulane University, 314-2228.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Carnival as Transformative Performance at Tate Modern, Curated by Claire Tancons

Coinciding with the Notting Hill Carnival, Tate Modern presents Up Hill Down Hall: an indoor carnival, a new performance commission guest curated by Claire Tancons that offers critical and artistic perspectives on Carnival. Informed by the history of the Notting Hill Carnival as it reaches a milestone half-century of existence, Up Hill Down Hall engages with Carnival as ritual of resistance, festival of otherness and performance art, and with the Notting Hill Carnival specifically as a contested site from which to reflect on notions of public space, performance, participation. It conceives of Carnival less as a theme than a medium and introduces practitioners across disciplines who draw from Carnival as a medium of artistic production and a form of social and political address. While signalling the importance of Carnival as a performance medium with mass appeal in the culminating of the massification of museum culture, Up Hill Down Hall inscribes these works within the politically conscious cultural legacy of the Notting Hill Carnival, born of Caribbean migration and metropolitan accommodation to the aftermath of colonialism, resistance to racism and the mainstreaming of multiculturalism and, ultimately, developed through cultural ingenuity and artistic creativity at the forefront of the formation of postcolonial British culture. More>>

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Gordon Parks' "Segregation Story" at Arthur Roger

At first glance, many of these photographs of Alabama in 1956 suggest the mellow, nostalgic visions of traditional American life that we associate with Norman Rockwell's illustrations or Ronald Reagan's speeches. Look again, and many of the people in these pictures appear clustered near signs announcing "White" or "Colored" that imposed race-based restrictions on their freedom, so scenes that appealed to our nostalgia for a more "innocent" time, turn out to be more like South Africa's sinister apartheid era. They were the work of the late Gordon Parks, whose dramatic photo essays for Life Magazine presaged his later career as a filmmaker, and the cinematic contrast of blatant racism appearing in otherwise innocent looking places underscores this paradoxical and strangely misanthropic twist in our history.
In  Department Store, Mobile Alabama, 1956, top, a primly dressed lady and her daughter stand on the sidewalk below a sign spelling out "Colored Entrance" in big red neon letters in a scene that in purely visual terms resonates nostalgia, which only makes its symbolism all the more chilling.  At an old time Dairy Freeze, above left, signs advertising shakes and sundaes share space with others announcing "White" and "Colored" service windows. Parks' photos of Alabama black folks at home evoke a sense of old time Americana worthy of Grant Wood, and although he was later better known for images of tumultuous Civil Rights protests, it is hard to imagine pictures that convey the sheer freakishness of racism more effectively than these Segregation Story photographs. Lost for decades, they finally turned up in 2012, and will soon appear in a new book and a major exhibit at Atlanta's High Museum.  Such works provide both a context and a contrast for Ti-Rock Moore's recent civil rights-inspired works at the Ogden Museum and Gallery Twenty-One Fourteen, where a neon sign candidly spells out White Privilege among other works reminding us that relics of white supremacy linger on, and we can only wonder how historians will view this period a half century from now. ~Bookhardt

Segregation Story: Photographs of Mid-1950s Alabama by Gordon Parks, Through Sept. 20, Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999;  Ti-Rock Moore appears at Gallery Twenty-One Fourteen, 2114 Decatur St, 941-7119. (See post below.)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Seen on Decatur Street

Lolipop by Margaret Meinzer and Ben Gregory
Seaside Wedding by Senan O'Connor
Not What You Think by Donna Moore
For the peripatetic flaneur, the 2100 block of Decatur Street is a study in urban animism, the genii loci of particular public places and the capacity of the inanimate for a kind of collective consciousness as people and things shift invisibly on their axes and reconfigure themselves within the parameters of the improbable. The current show at Gallery Twenty-One Fourteen is an example of new work that in many ways suggests a latter day iteration of the underground aesthetic of the French Quarter in the days of Noel Rockmore, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Gypsy Lou Webb, Lorenz Borenstein and others now discarnate, elsive as quicksilver at dusk, no longer seen but present in spirit, subtly whispering to others to follow them into those labyrinths between the worlds where it is always All Saints Day and the spirits of place rule the shadows and the margins as guardians of the liminal spaces where dawn and dusk are eternally born and reborn as luminous mists on the river. Here the spirit of continuity lives on. ~Bookhardt       

The 18th Annual No Dead Artists Exhibition

Schism by Don Manderson
Array (Detail) by Sam Metcalf
Sometimes it's like reading tea leaves. Since its inception in 1995, the No Dead Artists expo has  not only lived up to its goals of providing important exposure for talented emerging artists, it has also  rather unexpectedly functioned as a barometer of what artists around the country and the world are thinking and feeling, an advance seismometer of incipient new directions emerging in the art world. Obviously, much has changed since the earliest NDA iterations; after starting out as a local event, it gradually expanded to statewide, then nationwide and is now international in scope. This year's 18th Annual No Dead Artists International Juried Exhibition of Contemporary Art furthers this evolution: the fifteen artists who created the 40 artworks on view were chosen by a prestigious three juror panel from a total of over 2500 works submitted by over 500 artists. In some ways this parallels the trajectory its host city. Long known for going its own way with striking, if at times insular, disregard for fashionable trends, New Orleans has in recent years become a globally recognized epicenter of experimentation where art production is often participatory, and where a larger percentage of exhibition spaces are run collectively and/or collaboratively than any other city in the nation.

Shipwrecked by Mauricio Saenz
This also parallels the rise of a global 21st century art world that is more pluralistic and diverse than its 20th century predecessor, an art world where the experiential aspects of daily life on a rapidly changing planet are being explored in a direct way, unburdened by the prefabricated theoretical filters of the past. Indeed, emerging artists today are increasingly engaged with the task of defining the elusive phenomena that constitute the new realities of a century where the boundaries of time, space and power--in the personal and organizational sense--have been redrawn by the pervasive effects of all the digital and genetic technologies that reorder our once familiar world into something more mutable and conditional, a world increasingly defined and unsettled by ever more complex combinations of digital or genetic codes, all subject to seemingly limitless human intervention.

Birth Carpet by Paul Glenn
The unintended consequence of this epochal technological evolution has been a sense of dislocation and disorientation as the familiar old world we once knew is now revealed to be far less solid or tangible than we thought. True to the prognoses of both modern physics and ancient Buddhist texts, that old familiar world has been revealed to be a virtual reality no different than the condition the sages of old  called "maya" -- the Sanskrit word for illusion, the defining quality of "samsara"--ordinary daily life. New technology expands some human capacities at the expense of the traditional grounding in the tangible that humanity has relied on for eons, leading to the perceptual crisis of our time as those who cling to the eroding absolutes of the past become ever more disturbed even as the more resilient among us find creative ways to cope, or even thrive. Both the chaos and innovation fueled by this emerging new paradigm comprise the unifying threads that link all of the works in this show.  Continue Reading>>>